That December in 1965

Rubber Soul, My Generation, Turn! Turn! Turn!—the month that changed music forever


The Byrds in 1965
The Byrds in 1965

These days when musicians take months, sometimes years finishing an album, it is difficult to comprehend that there was once a time when albums rolled out in a matter of days—from its inception on the page to the sounds on vinyl. The final months of 1965 was an especially fruitful period when some of the biggest names in rock and pop released notable albums within days of each other.

November had already provided enough thrills for listeners with the release of Having a Rave Up with the Yardbirds, Beach Boys Party! and The Kink Kontroversy. The last mentioned album by the British group The Kinks featured a song called Where Have All the Good Times Gone. Well…if you were a rock music fan, even better times were actually just round the corner.

In fact, as far as rock and pop music is concerned, 1965 and 1966 were golden years, when the hits burst forth almost every week. It was still an era when the 7-inch single held its sway over the charts. And it seemed like artists and bands were engaged in an endless competition, trying to outdo each other, month after month. So if you had The Beatles releasing Ticket to Ride in April, their heaviest sounding single up until that point with its rumbling drums, The Rolling Stones upped the ante in June with an even harder and more memorable offering, (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. To trump the Stones at their game, it would require Bob Dylan’s iconic Like a Rolling Stone in July.

So by December, the year had already witnessed an embarrassment of hits. But the final salvos were yet to come. On 3 December, The Beatles released their album, Rubber Soul along with the double A-sided single Day Tripper/We Can Work It Out. The Beatles had always been inspired by R&B groups and Motown, and with Day Tripper they came closest to replicating that soul vibe. It also featured one of their most memorable guitar riffs. Rubber Soul was quite something else altogether… It was perhaps the beginning of the group taking themselves seriously and considering their songs as works of art. With Rubber Soul, for the first time, they considered the album as a cohesive entity and showed signs of their artistic maturation that would reach its peak with the next couple of albums—Revolver and Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Rubber Soul also indicated Bob Dylan’s growing influence on their songwriting as songs such as Norwegian Wood, Nowhere Man and Girl showed The Beatles trying to move away from the Moon-June variety of songs. To those in the know, the album cover hinted at the fact that the four lads from Liverpool were probably experimenting with substances that went beyond booze and pills.

On the very same day that Rubber Soul came out, The Who released their debut album, My Generation. The album was driven by its famous title track, which the group had released as a single in November and The Kids Are Alright. One of the best known bands to come out of the Mod scene in London, the band which included guitarist Pete Townshend, singer Roger Daltrey, bassist John Entwistle and drummer Keith Moon, were heavily influenced by R&B and soul music—on My Generation, they included two songs by James Brown. But The Who’s sound was all their own, a maelstrom of grungy guitars, manic bursts of percussion and growling bass runs that provided an apt framework for Daltrey’s vocal histrionics.

A couple of days later, on 6 December, arrived Turn! Turn! Turn!, the second album by The Byrds, who had been once dubbed “the American Beatles” by George Harrison. With their harmony vocals and chiming 12-string Rickenbacker guitar sound, it continued the folk rock sound that the group from Los Angeles had pioneered on their first album.

Not to be left out, The Rolling Stones also released an album, the US-only December’s Children (And Everybody’s). Featuring a liberal selection of R&B and blues covers, it also included some notable originals such as the brash Get Off My Cloud and the strangely un-Stones-like As Tears Go By with its schmaltzy orchestration. From their next album, Aftermath, the Stones would take a big step forward with their first album to include only originals.

As 1966 was visible on the horizon, the pop world would be increasingly influenced by the political events happening in far away Vietnam. The newest developments in the music scene would also gradually shift from Britain to the West Coast in the US with the emergence of the counter culture and acid rock bands; the likes of Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead.

Hiss, Crackle and Pop is a weekly blog on American roots and pop music on vinyl.

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